SALTY DAWG RALLY 2012 by George Day • Little did Bill and Linda Knowles of Bristol, RI know what they were getting into when, in the summer of 2011, they contacted a few friends who would be sailing from the northeast to the BVI in the fall to see if they wanted to sail in company. From that small conversation, the Salty Dawg Rally was born.

Now, in 2012, it promises to be one of the largest offshore rallies anywhere. The original rally left Hampton, Virginia in the fall of 2011 and saw 33 boats in attendance. Unlike other rallies, the Salty Dawg Rally (SDR) is free and run by a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters. BWS stepped up to be the rally’s first sponsor and contributes weather and routing services from Chris Parker to all who sail in the fleet. This boat-by-boat, in-depth weather service is a real safety aide.

Volunteer Dick Giddings stepped up to manage float plans for all of the boats in the fleet and maintained a daily SSB radio schedule. It  as often the case that ralliers spoke with their weather guru at least once a day via radio and then checked in with Dick, who maintained daily positions for everyone. For those without HF radio, it is possible to communicate with a SatPhone as well.

The 2011 southbound event to the BVI was such a success that Bill and Linda had no trouble attracting a fleet of 15 Salty Dawgs to join them for a rally home to the East Coast in May.

In the true island spirit, the people of the BVI have embraced the Salty Dawgs. In the days leading up to this spring’s May 15th start, there was a pizza party and BBQ at Nanny Cay Marina, and Deputy Governor V. Inez Archibald made an appearance at the send-off party to wish the sailors well and voice her government’s support.

Other local business have also offered to be sponsors of the event, including Road Town Wholesale (Rite Way Market), Bomboushay Pottery & BVI Painters, Yacht Shots BVI (marine photography) and Voyage Yacht Charters (discount fuel).

As Bill, Linda, and their growing family of volunteers and sponsors look forward to the 2012 southbound Salty Dawg Rally (scheduled to start from Hampton on November 4th), a lot of activity is in progress. A new website has been launched at, where you can get current news, an entry form, a float plan, information on sponsors and special SDR deals. And, once again, BWS will sponsor Chris Parker so everyone will have access to the best weather forecasting available.

In Hampton, the boats will be based at the Blue Water Marina and will start gathering around November 1st. Those who want to enter should be experienced offshore sailors with at least one offshore passage under their belts aboard the boat they are sailing. There is no safety inspection because it is expected that each skipper and crew will be thoroughly prepared and equipped with the safety gear, fuel capacity and spare parts they need for an extended offshore passage.

The Hampton West Marine will offer ralliers discounts. eDesign of Newport, RI is working with the Knowles to develop the new website, and Mike Martell is handling PR and communications. Other sponsors include Thurston Sails, Hampton Marine Services, Falvey Insurance, NV-Charts and Downunder Diving.

For those skippers seeking crew, Offshore Passage Opportunities, another SDR sponsor, has members who are ready, willing and able to sail south.

A fun, free, grass-roots rally for cruisers, the Salty Dawg Rally is the sensible way to sail in company to the Caribbean this fall, complete with parties, cruising comradeship, personalized weather forecasting, daily radio schedules and a welcoming destination in the BVI at the far end.

For more information or to get involved with the SDR, visit or email Bill and Linda Knowles at